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    Re: Bauer's book, was Re: Newton and Halley
    From: Wolfgang K�berer
    Date: 2007 Dec 6, 07:44 +0100

    To avoid giving cause again for comments how nit-picking and smart-alecky I
    am I had sent a short list of statements in Bauer's book that do not square
    with established knowledge in the field of history of navigation only to
    Nicolas.Anyone who is interested can ask him about it.
    But Robert Eno's post mentioning the "coconut sextant" merits another
    comment: There is no evidence whatever that such a device existed. The ample
    literature on Polynesian and Micronesian navigation and the reports of the
    few (Western) people that sailed with navigators of that tradition (David
    Lewis, Steve Thomas, Ben Finney) don't mention anything like that. On the
    contrary: they expressly state that the Pacific navigators were no "latitude
    sailors". The western concept of "measuring" simply does not fit the way
    they integrated their knowledge (of the heavens, the currents, wave
    patterns, cloud formation, distribution of islands in the direction they
    were heading etc.). It had a lot more in common with pre-modern Western
    navigation which also seems to have integrated non-measured information
    (winds, characteristics of the sea-bed etc.).
    So when Bruce Bauer mentions the "latitude hook" in the first chapter of his
    book, that's another point clearly erroneous. If that is not pointed out
    such inventions will be repeated again and again based on the authority of
    At least Robert Eno's "coconut
    Which means: the
    -----Urspr�ngliche Nachricht-----
    Von: NavList@fer3.com [mailto:NavList@fer3.com]Im
    Auftrag von Robert Eno
    Gesendet: Mittwoch, 5. Dezember 2007 05:01
    An: NavList@fer3.com
    Betreff: [NavList 4221] Re: Bauer's book, was Re: Newton and Halley
    I'll add another two daft two bits' worth from the backbenches.
    I read over Nicolas' critique and to his credit, he "walked the walk" as we
    say en Anglais, so a nod to Nicolas for delivering the goods. At this
    juncture, I am not in a position to challenge Nicolas on his findings so I
    will concede that in fact there are errors and omissions in the first
    chapter of Bauer's book. As I suggested in an earlier post, I know that
    Bauer's colleagues and friends, many of whom were knowledgeable historians
    and professional seamen, reviewed his book so it is surprising that they did
    not detect the same errors found by Nicolas and George. Regrettably, most of
    them, including Bauer, are long gone and so we will never know what they
    based their own information on.
    But some of the posters here provided a few clues relating to reference
    material which may have been widely seen as the last word on navigation
    history but in fact may themselves contain errors that have been repeated
    over and over again without anyone really challenging them. I reckon if you
    went through Bowditch with a fine-toothed comb, you'd find all kinds of
    In the final analysis, I do not believe the errors in Bauer's book are
    significant; less so when one considers that the chapter on history, as I
    said earlier, is entirely incidental to the main thrust of the book which is
    intended to be a practical manual on the maintenance and operation of the
    sextant. Remember, of the 183 pages of the book, 21 are devoted to history
    and that chapter is only intended to give the reader a view from 50,000
    Here is what I got from chapter 1:
    Prior to the development of the sextant as we know it today, there were
    several angle-measuring devices which were invented and used over the
    centuries. These included the (al) kamal, the latitude hook, the astrolabe,
    the quadrant and the Davis backstaff. None of them appeared to be entirely
    satisfactory as evidenced by the fact that inventors and mathematicians
    strove to devise better and better means to measure angles; with the
    ultimate goal of improving a ship's position-fixing capabilities at sea. The
    final result was the sextant.  At the risk of sounding like I want to wallow
    in ignorance, this is all I need to know for purposes maintaining and
    operating the sextant and, for that matter, an introduction to
    astro-navigation in general, and this is pretty much what I retained after
    reading Bauer's book for the first time.
    Now if I wanted to add my own criticism of Bauer's book, I could have
    mentioned that he totally neglected to mention the coconut sextant, which
    was used by the Hawaiian Islanders for determining latitude; that and
    probably dozens of other angle measuring devices used for astro-navigation
    around the planet. Hell, while I have the gripe ball in my hand, I want to
    know why in the heck Peter Ifland neglected to mention the C.Plath marine
    sextant bubble attachment in his book "Taking the Stars".  Of course I think
    I know the answer: Mr. Ifland likely had to make some hard choices as to
    what to include, otherwise the book would have gone on for thousands of
    pages. Likely the aforementioned Plath attachment was not significant enough
    in the grand scheme of the development of angle-measuring devices to be
    included in his book.
    To Bauer's credit, he discusses the sextants of tomorrow in the final
    chapter, however, I wish  he would have expanded on this chapter more
    because I found it to be rather intriguing.  Of course it is all moot now
    isn't it? That drive for better and better navigation instruments has
    resulted in GPS, not a space-age sextant.
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Fred Hebard" 
    Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 10:59 AM
    Subject: [NavList 4212] Re: Bauer's book, was Re: Newton and Halley
    > On Dec 3, 2007, at 12:35 AM, frankreed{at}HistoricalAtlas.net wrote:
    >> Yep, it's a great little book. Nice review, George. :-)
    > One other, very practical thing that makes Bauer's book outdated is
    > his modeling of half-moon reading glasses with one lens removed.
    > (And doesn't he look unhappy posing for that shot. :)  That was the
    > courage of one's convictions)!  Reading glasses are necessary for a
    > lot of us old fogies who are presbyoptic to read the sextant scale
    > and record the numbers.  Now, you can buy inexpensive reading glasses
    > with welded or soldered nose pieces rather than the plastic frame
    > molded to fit a nose.  These can ride far down on the nose, leaving
    > room to look through the sextant above.  I might add that reading
    > glasses with a spring to close the earpieces also conveniently hang
    > from a shirt more reliably than those without.
    > >
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